Sunscreen: What The Experts Are Saying

medical_personnel Over the past decade, the incidence of skin cancer has steadily risen.  It really is unfortunate news, but all the more reason I keep plugging the importance of using sunscreen regularly.

Exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun and artificial sources, such as tanning lights, both remain the primary causes of skin cancer.  They are also the reasons for what is called photoaging, which is the premature development of abnormal pigmentation, blood vessels and wrinkling of the exposed skin.

Because of the sometimes conflicting messages about sunscreens without scientific support that appear in various sections of the public media, the American Academy of Dermatology conducted a survey of its membership to determine their consensus on sunscreens, their safety, recommendations to patients, and their personal use.  Not surprisingly, 99% of skin experts agree that regular use of sunscreen lowers skin cancer risk and helps reduce development of photaging.

wear_sunscreen_guyOn the safety issue, 96+% of that same group of experts considered FDA-approved sunscreens that are currently available in the U.S. to be safe.  Highest recommendations at the 99% level went to sunscreens containing zinc or titanium oxides.

Per established guidelines, high majorities of skin experts recommended sunscreens with an SPF of at least 30.  Additionally, 74% believe that a higher SPF of 50+ was worth the extra expense in providing an additional margin of safety for patients.

When it came to what kind of sunscreen to use (i.e. rub-on sunscreen vs. spray sunscreen), experts reported some surprising results.  In fact, only 69% of skin professionals recommend spray formulations, as they generally feel that not enough sunscreen is applied with this method of application.

96% of those surveyed agree that the general public under-applies sunscreen regularly. However, they agree at the 97% level that the best form of sunscreen is one that is actually used on a regular basis, regardless the type or formulation.

If you ask an average person who does not regularly use sunscreen, they commonly say that they are trying to get vitamin D from sun exposure.  However, 91% of skin experts surveyed agreed that the risks of sun exposure vastly outweigh the benefits of vitamin D production for the individual.  Especially in northern climes, taking a vitamin D oral supplementation is considered a standard and necessary method to get sufficient D anyway.

sunscreen-30When working or playing outdoors, skin doctors themselves choose SPF of 30+ 99% of time while 63% choose SPF of 50+.  When not outdoors, 82% of those surveyed wear sunscreen twice a week whereas 42% wear every day (which, as you might guess, is my choice and standard).

Unfortunately, news media and certain Internet sources sometimes disseminate varying and contrary recommendations regarding sunscreens and their use.  While some have tried to vastly exaggerate the potential health risk of using sunscreens, there is no credible and scientific evidence of adverse effects of sunscreen on public health.

In fact, the opposite is true.  The risk of skin cancer is vastly higher than any theoretical risk from the sunscreen itself.

From my point of view, I recommend a sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 on all exposed areas of skin every day.  While much of the work I do on a daily basis is to repair the ravages of excessive sun exposure over a period of several years,  I would much rather have people start early and prevent the future effects of photodamage if possible.

If you have any questions on the topics of sunscreen and/or sun damage, please do not hesitate to call us at (207) 873-2158.  You may ask us any questions you may have about sun protection, or set up a free and confidential consultation with me.

About Dr. John Burke

John Burke M.D. has practiced medicine for over 25 years, and is the founding partner of MidMaine Internal Medicine. He established Maine Laser Skin Care in 2004 after devoting years to learning the latest in laser and dermatologic technology. Dr. Burke has treated patients from all over the United States. He is one of Maine's busiest practitioners in laser treatments, and in the use of Botox for upper facial lines and excessive sweating.
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